Some tropical forests are becoming carbon sources

Aerial view showing a tropical wildfire on 7 October 2020.

Aerial view showing a tropical wildfire on 7 October 2020.
Photo: Matas Morbak (Getty Images)

For years, climate scientists have been sounding the alarm about the growing possibility that the Amazon rainforest, now the largest absorber of carbon in the world, may actually occur Be a source of carbon inside Just 15 years. New research suggests that for some other types of tropical forests nearby, this is already happening.

This is due in large part to deliberate forest burning. In South America, the mining, animal husbandry, and soybean farming industries often desolate trees, turning forests into open pastures to make room for their operations.

This means that forests are less likely to suck greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere. To make matters worse, when a tree catches fire, it releases all carbon in its lifetime, which means that forests become a source of planet-warming emissions. And amid the climate crisis, this problem is even more severe, because between the hot and dry conditions, the forests have not produced enough humidity to quickly flush out the flames, which means more area less effort. Burns with

a New studyIt was published in Science Advance on Friday, aimed at how the carbon intake of South American forests has changed in recent years. To do this, the authors analyzed greenhouse gas monitoring data from 1987 to 2020 on 32 deciduous, semi-deciduous and evergreen forests, each of which has seen deforestation – in the lush state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. In total, the area they investigated, spread over some 81.5 acres (33 hectares).

Plugging this data into a statistical model, the authors found that on average, these forests are now sucking 2.6% less carbon per year than they did 33 years ago. At the same time, the carbon production of forests from fires increased by 3.4% per year, meaning that they are losing their ability to absorb gas. These changes were sufficient to push forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources. The authors fear that their findings may be additionally amenable to tropical forests throughout the region.

The data shows that the switch occurred in 2013. That year, on average, forests released 0.14 US tons per 2.5 acres (0.13 metric tons of carbon per hectare), or the equivalent of 323 miles in a diesel car.

The authors’ findings are particularly troubling because Separate research Recently it has been found that the importance of the carbon sequence of tropical forests is almost as important as that of the Amazon rainforest.

Scientists note that all is not lost. We should put pressure on these forests by curbing our greenhouse gas emissions, which will slow the climate crisis. Brazil should also restore the carbon sinking capabilities of these forests, protecting forests from deliberate burns.

“The key approach is conservation,” Vilnius Maya, a researcher at the Universidad Federal de Lavras, Brazil, wrote in an email.

The authors state that special efforts should be made to preserve the deciduous forests that researchers from the driest and hottest types investigated and saw a similarly sharp increase in carbon emissions. But in reality, these protections should extend to all foliage in the region.


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